Tag: road pricing

Traffic congestion is both frustrating and costly. As The Economist article below states:

Congestion does more than irritate drivers. It makes employees and deliveries late, it snarls up modern “just-in-time” supply chains and it clogs up labour markets by making commuting difficult. The cost of all this is almost impossible to measure. But a big review of transport carried out by Rod Eddington, a one-time boss of British Airways, put the cost between £7 billion and £8 billion ($10.6-$12.2 billion) a year.

So what can be done about it? The report, published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), looks at various solutions. These range from staggering work times, car sharing and working from home, to improving roads and road pricing.

As economists we should look at the relative costs and benefits of alternative solutions in coming to sensible policy solutions. The problem is that people are often very emotional about traffic schemes. They may complain about sitting in traffic jams, but don’t want to pay to tackle the problem. There is thus a political element in any debate about solutions. Not surprisingly, the government has shied away from introducing road pricing

So what are the best solutions to traffic congestion and how do we overcome the political obstacles? The following articles look at these questions.

CBI urge radical changes to avoid gridlocked roads Independent, Peter Woodman (15/3/10)
Bunged up The Economist (15/3/10)
Road travel ‘needs big overhaul’ to avoid gridlock BBC News (15/3/10)
CBI sets out case for road pricing Logistics Manager (16/3/10)
CBI urges change to work patterns to avoid road gridlock Business Financial Newswire (15/3/10)
Road tolls ‘essential’ to avoid gridlock autoblog UK, Nic Cackett (15/3/10)

Tackling congestion, driving growth CBI (March 2010)


  1. Why does the market fail to achieve the socially optimal amount and pattern of road use?
  2. What externalities are involved in road use?
  3. What are the arguments for and against increased road building as the solution to traffic congestion?
  4. Assess the arguments for and against road pricing
  5. If increasing use is to be made of road pricing, what is the best form for road pricing to take?
  6. Why is road pricing ‘lethal’ for politicians?
  7. Assuming you were in government and were acutely aware of how your policies might be perceived by the public and the press, what would you do about traffic congestion?

The issue of road pricing has been simmering in the background of the environmental debate for many years and has, this month, gained greater prominence with the publication of a draft version of the Road Transport Bill that will allow local authorities to run pay-as-you-drive trials in their local areas. A number of local authorities will be interested, though all will be wary of the policy given the recent petition on the Downing Street website against road pricing that got nearly two million signatures! London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has meanwhile extended the reach of the London congestion charge with his plans to create a low emission zone (LEZ) in the capital and charge more for older, and therefore dirtier, vehicles to enter the zone.

Draft bill starts Britain down the road to pay as you drive Guardian (21/5/06)
Livingstone to charge older, dirtier lorries £200 per day Guardian (8/5/06)

1. What are the external costs and benefits resulting from increased use of the roads?
2. Discuss the extent to which the policy of charging more for older, dirtier vehicles is likely to reduce the external costs of driving.
3. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the likely impact of pay-as-you-drive schemes on the social equilibrium in the transport market.

Ever keen to boost his environmental record, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has decided to extend the London congestion charge westwards into areas like Kensington and Chelsea. Residents are up in arms, but will the larger congestion zone help further with the management of traffic and carbon emissions in London?

Congestion zone could fuel voter revolt against Livingstone Guardian (19/2/06)
London congestion zone (interactive map) Guardian
London congestion zone (podcast) Guardian
London C-charge zone spreads westwards Times Online (19/2/06)
Livingstone praises congestion zone extension Guardian (19/2/06)
Bigger new congestion zone launched Guardian (19/2/06)
London’s Lefty Mayor Fights Traffic Guardian (18/2/06)
Leafy Kensington shows its anger BBC News Online (17/2/06)


1. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of the extended congestion zone on traffic levels in London.
2. Discuss whether the implementation of a larger congestion zone will help move closer to a socially optimal position in this market.
3. Assess other measures that the Mayor of London could introduce to meet emissions targets for the city..